By Cris Sheridan and Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 07/22/12
One of the indubitable effects of the secularization of our culture and our society is the debasement of our collective moral fabric, our social mores. The absolute and fundamental metrics of values which form the basis of our Judeo-Christian society have steadily eroded, and at an accelerated rate over the past few decades. This erosion of traditional values and standards has long contributed to an emergence of relativism that is profoundly symbolized through the uncertainty of our modern financial and monetary system. Just as moral relativism manifests a disintegration of society’s traditional values, the relativism we see permeating the financial system today portends a decline in the future viability of our global economic system.
The late Alan Bloom, professor of philosophy at Cornell, Yale, and the University of Chicago, wrote some twenty years ago in The Closing of the American Mind, “There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.” If all truth is relative, all morality becomes relative as well, for the elimination of absolute truth claims absolute morality as its first victim.
This moral relativism has coincided predictably with the secularization of our culture. The secular concept that there are no absolute truths has gradually yet effectively eroded our collective value system in such a way as to alter and distort our social value system.
A common interpretation of moral relativism, regardless of the source, is the view that “ethical standards, morality, and positions of right or wrong are culturally based and therefore subject to a person’s individual choice. We can all decide what is right for ourselves. You decide what’s right for you, and I’ll decide what’s right for me. Moral relativism says, ‘It’s true for me, if I believe it.’” Essentially, nobody is objectively right or wrong. Fixed standards of value don’t exist aside from the changing whims of society and government.
William McGuffey, who authored the McGuffey’s Readers, which were the mainstay of America’s public school system for nearly a century, wrote: “Erase all thought and fear of God from a community, and selfishness and sensuality would absorb the whole man.” We observe today with certitude, the veracity of his statement.
Moral relativism weakens our collective cultural conscience. It weakens our ability to identify evil and our resolve to confront it as such. It leads to the perfidious exoneration of individual responsibility and culpability for perpetrators of evil, and seeks blame for such actions in social, parental, and educational failures. It prevents us from recognizing the evil in our midst that threatens our families, our neighborhoods, our culture, and our nation. And if allowed to continue unabated, it perpetuates the continued erosion of our collective value system.
The displacement of absolute standards and values affects other aspects of our lives, as well, perhaps most notably in the world of finance. The financial world today—a world to which we are all connected whether we like it or not—is plagued by a similar erosion of value. Consider money, for example—a symbol of a nation’s willingness to maintain and uphold value through honest weights and measures. Even the word credit, which forms the basis of our modern global financial system, is based on the latin word credere, meaning “to believe.” That is, to believe in the other party to honor their contract and use honest scales.
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